The art of stop-motion animation has been used for generations past and present, being an easy-to-understand (but difficult-to-master) medium of animation for new artists expressing their budding creative flair, or studios professionals delivering universally loved cinematic adventures. Christmas classics like Rudolph the red nosed reindeer stop-motion films by beloved author Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs), the medium has been used emblematically by studios and artists. One of these studios held a monopoly on scale and for 50 years was responsible for creating many famous and cherished animated properties that continue to be enjoyed and revisited to this day.
If you don’t know Aardman Animations by name, you certainly know them by their work. The UK-based animation studio has been delighting audiences for decades and, when not creating its original animated shorts, it has collaborated with many other major studios to produce its own feature films. Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and focusing exclusively on their theatrical release history, it’s time to decide which of their excellent collection holds the crown above the rest.
8 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020)
Despite its place at the bottom of this list, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is far from being a bad movie. Sequel to the 2015 original, the stop-motion family adventure doesn’t lack Aardman’s charm and wit, with a cheerful and well-meaning innocence that will make you smile. Farmageddon takes last place however, as its fish out of water story can play out a bit too predictably even for children and, being a sequel, can sometimes struggle to create its own identity as a film autonomous.
seven The Pirates! Gang of Misfits (2012)
Known as Pirates, on an adventure with scientists! in the UK, as well as being based on the children’s book of the same name, The Pirates! Gang of Misfits is a fun comedy adventure that, while not reaching the heights of Aardman’s other projects, still delivers an entertaining experience. Using both traditional stop-motion for character models and sets, and CGI animation to help with background and additional sets, The Pirates quickly became the studio’s most complex project to date at the time. While the effort pays off for the film’s visuals, giving it an incredibly distinctive style and believable scale, the film’s writing can lack intelligence, coming off a bit shallow in some ways.
6 Washed (2006)
Being one of the few films released by the studio using full CGI animation rather than the traditional stop-motion style, Distant takes a fun, creative premise and rolls with it. Released barely a year after a tragic fire engulfed Aardman Animations’ warehouse, destroying much of their archived work, the company has been eagerly awaiting their next release to help get them back on track. What ended up being delivered was a very solid and enjoyable film. Distant just knows when to throw in the right amount of jokes as well as the right amount of character, combining an imaginative world that lives under our drains with a memorable cast of eccentrics.
5 First Man (2018)
A little like Pirates!, first man finds itself an oft-forgotten member of the Aardman line of films, but, unlike its marine fairing counterpart, ends up being a much more creative and distinctive take on its premise. More aptly labeled a “sports movie” given the story’s unexpected direction, the stop-motion caveman flick relishes its own goofiness and lighthearted nature, with silly characters and over-the-top antagonists. pompous. Expertly crafted lighting and visuals nicely complement an imaginative plot to create a very solid and unjustly overlooked animated adventure about another era.
4 Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
“Charming” might not be a strong enough word to describe the exploits of the lovable Shaun the Sheepwhich began as a spin-off of an original Wallace and Gromit short, as well as having his own hit TV show. The film demonstrates that the lovable, simplistic world and characters can translate well to a theatrical release, and never feels like it needs to unnaturally stretch its story to hit its 85-minute runtime. The characters are also mostly silent, which makes the film stand out for its unusual lack of dialogue, and therefore a more creative approach to visual storytelling.
3 Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
By far the most iconic duo in not only the Aardman Animations line, but also in stop-motion, Wallace and Gromit make their cinematic debut in one of the studio’s most entertaining and imaginative projects. Beginning life as a series of short films made for British television, they quickly gained popularity and became well known around the world for their distinctive style of engaging stories with wacky humour. Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit translates the world of the titular characters very well to the big screen and serves to not only usher in a new generation of fans, but also appeal to those who grew up with the originals on television. With more Wallace and Gromit projects to come, now is the best time to grab some cheese and give it a watch.
2 Arthur Noel (2011)
It’s no secret that Christmas movies are a dime a dozen, all hoping to leave their individual stamp on the holiday and become a re-watchable classic for years to come. Through all the cut-price animated Christmas stories to come out, one seemed to be trampled on by the others and unfairly watched: Arthur Christmas. Pinning contemporary and classic interpretations of the season’s celebrations against each other, the film beautifully captures an organic holiday spirit in its portrayal of memorable and well-meaning characters. Being another of the few Aardman films using CGI animation rather than the traditional stop-motion style, the character designs can look a little unattractive from certain angles; However, looking past it would show you a classic Christmas tale that deserves far more attention than it gets. It’s incredibly funny, surprisingly moving, and one of the best Christmas movies.
1 Chicken Coop (2000)
In a classic example of beginner’s luck, Aardman Animation’s feature debut, Chicken coop, trumps the rest as still being the best of their stellar work. After the escapades of chickens on a farm and their countless escape attempts, the culinary family adventure delivers with its well-realized characters, lively setting, excellent animation and stellar soundtrack. The action scenes are delightfully creative, showcasing the animation team’s ability to put together eye-catching and exhilarating sequences that could take a long time to put together.
Over 20 years after the release, die-hard fans and casual viewers are still coming back to revisit Chicken coop for its fun characters and unparalleled charm. With a sequel in the works, the original will always hold its place as the quintessential demonstration of the unparalleled talent and effort behind every Aardman Animation project for a long time to come.
Aardman Animations founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton don’t want their independent studio to be gobbled up by a major studio in the future.
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